The five most important supplements

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If you’re serious about changing your physique, you know you need to train and eat in the right manner to build new lean muscle mass while burning unwanted fat. But training hard can deplete your body of vitamins, nutrients and other compounds essential for muscle gain and fat loss. Even with the best diet possible, it can be incredibly tough to get all these vital elements. This means using supplements. Here are my top five – after whey protein, which should be consumed straight after your workouts to accelerate your progress.

Vitamin D

If you don’t get out in direct sunlight enough – ideally for at least 20 minutes every day between the hours of 10am and 2pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest – you’re likely to be vitamin D deficient. This increases your chances of obesity, promotes a decline in muscle mass and makes you more susceptible to many diseases. Men with adequate vitamin D have higher testosterone levels, the leanest body composition, a greater percentage of lean mass and better overall health than those with insufficient D, according to research.


Zinc is so important because it’s a mineral found in every tissue in the body. It’s a powerful antioxidant, helping to prevent cancer, and is also directly involved in the maintenance of ideal hormone levels, which is vital for muscle growth and fat burning. Zinc plays a significant role in protein synthesis, and adequate levels allow for a more robust release of the three most important anabolic hormones: testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Without adequate levels of these hormones, you’ll miss out on muscle and strength development from your hard work in the gym.


Having adequate levels of magnesium enables optimal athletic performance because the body is better able to use energy and perform muscular contractions. Research shows supplementing with magnesium increases red blood cell production, makes zinc more available to support energy production and muscle contractions, and promotes the removal of waste products created by intense exercise, allowing you to recover more quickly.

Omega 3

Omega 3 fats are essential fatty acids, which means your body can’t make them and must get them from food. They’re commonly found in fish and in the meat of wild, grass-fed animals. They are vital for efficient metabolism and help you burn excess fat. For optimal health you need a balanced ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, but the modern Western diet is far higher in the latter due to our heavy use of vegetable oils, making omega 3 supplementation vital to successful fat loss.


BCAAs are three types of essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – found in high-protein foods. They prevent muscle breakdown and encourage muscle synthesis, so taking them during intensive training sessions is a no-brainer. Even after you’ve stopped taking them, these compounds continue to encourage lean muscle mass gains. They can even help maintain your gains when you take time out from training, while minimising the accumulation of fat.

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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.